An-Me Chung, program officer of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, shares her view on after-school education.
1. How do you build consensus to get this work done?
The task force went through this process of realizing, "You know, we all have a stake in this; we all have a responsibility." We all have a piece of this. And they are not coming together; the pieces are not coming together. People are working in silos. And people very quickly decided, "You know, this is not about blaming people, which a lot of reports are about. This is about, "How do we build a consensus, and how do we address this idea that is going to take all of us to make a difference?"
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So, the task force deliberately thought about their learning piece. They were very focused not so much about the time, because people had been talking about that, but about what kids are doing in school, out of school, in their communities, and it was really driven by the sense of global competitiveness. We are not keeping up. What is it that we need to do to remain competitive and have our generation, our next generations, be at the forefront of what they are doing and be competitive?
It really provides a framework for how to think about reconceptualizing time and learning. It's not prescriptive. It's not meant to be a recipe book. It's meant to catalyze and instigate conversations at the local, state, and national levels, and be an integration of those pieces. I think states and localities and federal and national initiatives often work in silos, and there is not that cross-discussion or cross-fertilization about policy that needs to happen. We talk a lot about doing it, which is what this report is doing, but we've got to do something about making it real.
It's not meant to be the panacea, but it's meant to be a report that takes people a step back, gives them the opportunity to reflect, to think about what they want an ideal situation to be, and to figure out how we get to that ideal situation, rather than a lot of the Band-aid approaches that are being done right now: "If we add this and this, it will make a difference," and we find out, well, it makes a difference only for x amount of kids, or it doesn't make a difference at all.
So, it's an opportunity to get buy-in, to draw in other partners that need to be part of this and focus on outcomes. And it can't be partners for the sake of having partners. It's got to be focused on the outcomes we want for our kids and our community. It's not a quick fix. It's not meant to be a quick fix, because quick fixes, as we know, don't work in this system.
But here is an opportunity to take a report like this as more of a conceptual framework piece and say, "How can we adapt this to the community we are in, to the agencies that we work for, at either the state or federal level? How do we better connect across all these different sectors?"
This could happen anywhere. People just have to have the will and desire. It may take time, but it can happen. And if we don't raise the standards of what we want for our kids and our country, we are only going to settle for what we already have.